Most of us are at least passingly familiar with glutamate. It’s the “G” in MSG, monosodium glutamate. It’s a common food additive, often associated with Chinese restaurant food, but actually present in many of the modern processed foods we eat.

However, it turns out that glutamate can trigger many negative symptoms, including headache and jaw pain.

Glutamate and Jaw Pain

University of British Columbia researcher Dr. Brian Cairns has been investigating the role of glutamate in jaw pain. He asked healthy volunteers to ingest 12 grams of glutamate (about half an ounce, the amount found in the average fast food meal). It turns out that between 50-60% of the time, this resulted in nausea, headaches, or jaw pain.

Cairns then attempted to determine whether there was a direct correlation between jaw pain and glutamate levels. He measured the glutamate levels in the muscles of patients with TMJ, and found out that glutamate levels were highest where pain was greatest.

He believes that glutamate spikes can cause jaw pain, headaches, and even migraines.

Where Is Glutamate in Your Diet?

It’s always a good idea to keep a pain diary if you suffer from chronic pain. If you don’t yet keep one, you should start. If you do keep one, go back and try to correlate your pain with what you ate that day. Look for these possible sources of glutamate in your food:

  • Hamburger Helper and other boxed meal kits
  • Canned soup
  • Frozen pizza
  • Canned meats
  • Bacon bits
  • Seasoning salt
  • Sauce mixes
  • Fast food
  • Chain restaurant food
  • Flavored chips
  • Processed cheese snacks

If you find that there is a correlation, try to do experiments by cutting out most of the suspect foods, but trying one once in a while to see if it leads to pain.

If you find this correlation, congratulations. You’ve located one of your jaw pain triggers and can avoid it so that you can reduce your incidence of pain.

If you suffer from jaw pain, we can help you identify other triggers, track down the source of your pain, and give you a treatment that addresses the root cause of your pain. For help, please call (303) 691-0267 for an appointment at the TMJ Therapy and Sleep Center of Colorado in Denver.